Sunday, September 19, 2004

Election by Noise 

When is communication deliberately not communication? When there is an election. In a mythical world of rational elections, candidates communicate positions and voters make rational choices based on self-interest.

In the real world of elections, media confuse more than communicate -- exactly what they are supposed to do. No campaign really wants anyone to pay attention to issues. It is charge, counter-charge and imagery 24 hours a day distributed through every medium a campaign can afford to buy -- campaign appearances, TV, Radio, direct mail, billboards, lawn signs, bumper stickers, internet, telephone outreach, events, stunts, etc.

Modern campaigns are whirlwinds of message-sending through election day and in the sending, the message is lost. So, how do people determine who to vote for? They appear to form impressions of candidates based on a few less-than-credible elements and visuals. So campaign managers try to have their candidates present themselves in as many ways as possible to appeal to target segments.

I have worked on few campaigns so I cannot provide deep insight into what one does to win an election. But it was clear from the one campaign I did advise some years ago that others also don't know what to do. The people I counseled were clueless about how to handle the issue they were supporting. They rejected what they had to do in favor of advertising, some thing they knew well. They went down in flames.

This year, both Republicans and the Democrats are moving into personal, door-to-door appeals to individuals to vote. This is the machine electioneering that cities like Chicago used to employ. I know it works because a wardheeler showed at my door one day and asked how I was doing. I was impressed then and now.

It is interesting that with all the media in elections one needs to return to the oldest form of communication -- face-to-face.


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